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A Pen-Ramble in Linebrook 

Martin Van Buren Perley 



844441 ...A pen-ramble in Linebrook... t;Salem,Mass . ? 

.() 1804? n 


Caption title. 

"From the Bulletin of the Essex institute, 
vol. XV, p. 118." 


P 9563 «^o.«, NL 37-1397 

From the Bulletin of the Essex Institute, Vol. XV, p. ii8. 



This is ancient territoiy. There were vested rights, 
upon the southeast, as early as 1635 or 6. Before 1653 
Ipswich-Linebrook was all improved. The earliest own- 
ers were Batchelder, Winthrop, Norton, Foster, Payne, 
Jacobs, etc. The earliest settlers were Batchelder, 
Foster, Sherwiii, Howe, Perley, Fowler, Davis, Grant, 
Burnham, Cooper, Burpee, Tenney, Pingree, Kimball, 
Chapman, Dodge, Jewett, Dresser, etc. 

The earliest settlements were upon the south and north 
where the rivers led. It has always been a farming com- 
munity. The surface is agreeably diversified with hills, 
plains and meadows. Hunsley hill upon the northeast, 
300 feet above the level of the sea, is the highest eleva- 
tion in the county, except Baldpate in Georgetown, 392 
feet, and IJolts hill in Andover, 423 feet. Upon Huns- 
ley's summit, a tree, which was used by the United States 
government as a beacon for many years, was destroyed 
by the wind some ten years ago. The plain land is some- 
what sandy and not now particularly adapted to farming. 
AVhcn the soil was new it was very satisfactory for raising 
the cereals, and our early ancestors sought and valued it for 
corn, Avheat, flax and others. The valleys are rich and 
fertile. The meadows Avere highly prized by the settlers, 
for they were the principal source of feed for their cattle 
in winter. One hundred and twenty-live years ago Mr. 
Job Pingry owned three thousand acres of this territory. 

Within our southwestern border is Hood Lake, lifty 
acres of beautiful water, lately stocked with choice fishes. 




Near the site of the ancient church is ''pulpit rock," hav- 
ing a perpendicular frontage of some ten feet, overlooking 
a broad plain, where Kev. George Whitcfiekl electri- 
fied the multitude with the spirit of his power, as he 
reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to 
come. Near the present church is one of the largest Ijarns 
in the county, 120 by 41 feet, with excellent equipments. 
Opposite this barn is the site of the okl garrison and 
tavern, where at a militia election the successful candidate 
was accidentally shot by his opponent, who was tried and 
convicted, but pardoned by the Governor before sentence 
was pronounced; and where upon an election day a Mr. 
J. P. climbed the flag-staff, unaided, to the top of the 
mainstaft', for the reward of a bowl of punch that had 
been placed there by means of ladders. Having reached 
the top and secured the prize, he oflered to share it with 
any Avho might earn it as he had. Several attempts with 
as many faihu-es made him 

Monarch of all he surveyed 

With rights that none could dispute. 

Early in the present century there was the very eccen- 
tric sign of a very eccentric man. It has found its way 
into literature, and has been told as an entertaining story 
by travellers far and wide. His title was corporal, his 
trade blacksmith, his business landlord, and his sign : 

" I shoe the horse, I shoe the, ox ; 
I carry the nails in my box ; 
I make the nail, I set the shoe, 
And entertain some strangers too." 

At times he would not reply Avhen questioned unless 
addressed by his title. He was as obliging and generous 
as he was eccentric. 

During the Revolution, report said one day that the 
enemy was sailing up Batchelder's brook, and men, wo- 



men and children fled for their lives. But one Dresser, 
whom they met, called them fools and deliberately taking 
out his pipe and lighting it, said, "I'll take a little smoke 
before they get here." They did not come, but we are 
not to infer that he is smokino- now. 

One of our most substantial, practical, influential and 
valuable citizens, in general business and town afllurs, was 
Phineas Nelson Dodge, for many years selectman and as- 
sessor, and several times elected special supervisor and 
commissioner in valuations and expend itnres of large 
sums of money. 

Kev. Samuel Perley was born here — a graduate of 
Harvard College, an able preacher, and a member of the 
convention that ratified the Federal Constitution, and voted 
for its adoption. Here, too, was born Rev. Nathaniel 
Howe, uncle of our present pastor, a graduate of Harvard 
College, a preacher of Hopkinton, and noted for his orig- 
inality, incisive diction and hard logic. Linebrook fought 
in the Indian w^ars, in the Revolution, in the war of 1812, 
and furnished some fifteen or twenty soldiers against the 

But what of the parish as such? Of what use is it when 
churches and ministers are not particularly necessary to 
lead the great nuijority in the contemplation of truth ; 
when saving truth is uttered only by the most popular 
preachers ; when converts can be made on a Sunday 
pleasure-ride, as in a prayer-room; when seasides and 
groves are as hallowed, as the place where prayer is wont 
to be made? Of what use when men, therefore, are under 
no especial obligation to support it, except as a matter of 
charity to the church ; and tire so much during the week 
in the service of the world, that they feel too tired to 
serve God on Sunday? There is little use of it, and there 
is a corresponding ignorance of its function. But there 




was a time when the parish had its use ; when every 
man understood and obeyed its precept or felt its rod 
of correction; when the parish was a power for good in 
social life and moral conduct, to say nothing now of 
the exemplary piety fostered by that old regime. There 
was a time when a man should labor six days and rest on 
the seventh ; when he must belong to some parish, nuist 
contribute proportionally of his substance for the gospel 
support, must be in his place of worship, with his family, 
on Sunday, or give a good and substantial reason for 
his neglect, and so bring up his children in rectitude. 'J'ho 
parish was not a regime of compulsion more than any 
rule of right conduct of to-day. Worship is naturally 
inherent and is the foundation of religious life, and no 
well-ordered life exists without a time and place for every- 
thing. So every community for religious worshi}) and 
instruction must have its metes and bounds, its corps of 
officers, its laws and by-laws and means of support. 

Parishes grew up then as towns do now. New coipo- 
rations in either case remove existing burdens and o\)vi\ 
new facilities for progress and prosperity. The inhabi- 
tants of this precinct were burdened in being so far re- 
mote from their respective phices of worship. Boxford 
first parish, and Rowley second, were upon tho west, 
Byfield upon the north, Eowley and Ipswich iirst parishes 
upon the east, and Topstield parish upon the south. Cen- 
tral Linebrook is some four miles from either. Besides, 
many living within that distance would be better accom- 
modated here ; and with ample territory and consequently 
ample means, it was thought advisable to employ a relig- 
ious teacher as early as 1739 or 40. Shortly afterwards 
the propriety of a corporate parish began to be discussed, 
and a petition was sent to the Great and General Court 
of Massachusetts Bay. Finally, a committee ot that body 



" repaired to the several parishes, took a view of the sit- 
xiation and circumstances and heard the parishes con- 
cerned," and submitted their report ]\Iarch 21, 1745, old 
style. "In Council June 4, 1746, it was ordered that 
the inhabitants and their eflects by the report set off to- 
gether with such other persons exempted as may join 
them Avithin twelve months, be and are hereby erected 
into a distinct and separate precinct accordingly^ and that 
they do duty and receive privileges as other precincts 
within the Province do or by law ought to enjoy, and that 
the clnirge of the committee amounting to 9£. 9s. Gp. be 
paid by the petitioners." 

"Sent down for concurrence. 

"J. AYillard, Sec'y. 
"Received and concurred in. 

"J. Hutchinson, Speaker. 

" Consented to. 

"W. Shirley. 

" Copy examinecl , 

Pr Josiah AYillard, Sec'y." 
The warrant for the hrst meeting was issued l)y"the 
worshipful Jonathan Wade, one of his Majesty's Justices 
of the Peace for the county of Essex." It was directed 
to Abraham How, and he Avas requested "to notify and 
warn the freeholders and other inhabitants of the precinct 
qualiBcd to vote in town affairs to assemble and meet at 
the meeting-house in said parish, on Monday, the 7^^' day 
of July next, at one of the clock afternoon." It was 
dated and signed : " Given under my hand and seal this 
twelfth day of June in the twentieth year of his Majesty's 
reign annoq: Domini 1746. Jonathan Wade Just« Pa- 

Mr. How made return of the warrant, and the first 
parish meeting was held according to its precept. George 



Hibbert was chosen moderator ; Mark How, clerk ; and 
John Smith, Daniel Foster, George Hil)bert, Jonathan 
Burpee and John Fowler, jr., a connnittee for calling 
future meetings. Thus the parish obtained its status, ilt 
right to command its parishioners and to tax their prop- 

^ The perimeter of the parish is in part composed of five 
different brooks, and it was, therefore, determined hy 
vote Jan. 27, 1746-7, to name it Linebrook. Dec. 25, 
1755, Dea. elonathan Burpee, Sen. David Perlcy and 
Mark How were chosen a committee to join with the 
neighboring parishes in perambulating the line, which 
was described in the petition to the (ireat and Goncrnl 
Court, and recorded in the parish records JMarch 17, 1752, 
as follows : 

In Ipswich, beginning at the mouth of Ilowlett's brook, 
so called, by the north side of Ipswich river; thence run- 
ning northeasterly by said river till it corned to (Jravelly 
brook, so called; thence running northerly by said l)rook 
across the West Meadows till it comes to John Smith's, 
to the west branch of Egypt river, so called, and by 
said river till it comes to the northeasterly corner of Bull- 
brook pasture so called ; thence northwesterly including 
said pasture till it comes to where said pasture strikes 
Rowley line ; thence westerly on Rowley line till it 
comes to Batchelder's brook, so called ; thence northerly 
by said brook, including George KilburiTs and Thomas 
AVood's land on the east side of said brook, following the 
said brook till it comes to the easterly part of George 
liibbert's land ;. then, as said IIil)bert's land runs to the 
northwest corner thereof, including said Hibbert's land ; 
thence running northwesterly as the line runs between 
Jonathan Burpee's and Aquilla Jewett's land to the brook, 
on which stands Mr. Teimey's grist-mill ; so by the brook 



to the said mill ; thence by said brook till it comes to 
Straight bridge ; still southwesterly on said brook includ- 
ing Aaron and Job Pingree's and Jedediah and David 
Kill)urn's and David Perley's land on the north of said 
brook to an island in the Great Meadows, called Pea- 
body's Island, to Boxford line ; thence southerly as Box- 
ford and Rowley line runs till it comes to the Ipswich 
line ; thence as the line runs between Boxford and Ips- 
wich, till it comes to the corner bounds between Ipswich, 
Boxford and Topslield before Capt. Perley's door ; 
thence as the line runs between Topsfield and Ipswich, 
till it comes to the first mentioned bounds at Howlett's 

Feb. 11, 1774, a part of the parish with the same part 
of the town of Ipswich was by the General Court set off 
to Topslield. June 28, 1786, a law was passed wherein 
the bounds of parishes formerly settled were " confirmed 
and established." After the amendment to the State 
Constitution a law was made whereby all memberships of 
parishes must be preceded by an application in writing. 
In 1816, a part of Ipswich was set ofi' to Boxford, but 
no mention was made of the parish, which was, therefore, 
imeii'ected. No other changes have come to our notice 
and the Linebrook of to-day includes parts of Rowley, 
Ipswich and Boxford — the original line except in the 
set-oft' to Topsfield. A parishioner, at first, as deter- 
mined by Worshipful Wade's warrant for the first meet- 
ing, w^as an inhabitant of the precinct, qualitied by law to 
vote in town affairs. By the law of June 28, 1786, a 
parishioner must pay, over and above his poll-tax, a tax 
equal to tw^o-thirds of a single poll-tax. We know of no 
other restriction and no change in these. The Public 
Statutes of 1882 say: "Nothing in this chapter shall 
enlarge or diminish the powers of taxation enjoyed by 




any religious society by virtue of any special law or act 
of incorporation, nor impair the existing right of prop- 
erty of any territorial parish." Thus Linehrook exists 
to-day, if these laws have been complied with,— exists at 
the age of one hundred and thirty-seven years, stron"" iiw 
her original powers and privileges, and only subject to the 
duties and liabilities of her youth. 

The first meeting-house Avas erected in 1743. June 27, 
1746-7, the parish voted to finish the house thus : First, 
the pulpit and deacon's seat ; second, the body seats he- 
low ; third, three fore seats in each gallery ; fourth, the 
gallery stairs and plaster under the gallery; fifth, a pew 
for the parish. j\Iay 18, 1747, it was voted that the 
meeting-house be finished by the last of Octoher. It was 
a two-story, -square house, Avas furnished with box-pews, 
and was entered by a front door and a door on each side. 
Dec. 28, 1747, a committee was chosen to receive and 
receipt for a gift from Abraham Smith, and discharge 
the executor. They were also to paint the pulpit suit- 
ably and put on it the name of Abraham /Smith deceased. 
This house stood about a third of the way on the road 
from the Ipswich-Linebrook school-house to the Eowley- 
Georgetown road. The building committee were tlohn 
Smith, Thomas Potter, Mark How, Jonathan Burpee and 
John Abbott. The genealogy of the Fowler family reads 
that James Davis, who married Abigail Metcalfe, gave the 
land on which the house stood. The parish records read 
that the price of pew No. 11, bought by Joseph jMctcalfe 
and Jonathan Burpee, Avas "3^ acres of land to build the 
house on." The house Avas removed to the location of the 
present church and rebuilt in 1828 and dedicated Jan. 1, 
1829. The rebuilding followed the old model. The 
present church Avas erected in 1848. 

Their method of psalm singing Avas quaint. The tuner. 



as the loader was called, would read a verse or line and 
then strike some symmetrical movement, when all the organs 
vocal followed. In 1791, the singing-school was invited 
to assist the tuners, and their office began to decline. 

No Ruling Elder was chosen after 1787. The deacons 
number twelve. Dea. William F. Conant, the present 
incumbent, has worthily and efficiently performed the 
duties of his office for tifty-two years. He has also been 
superintendent of the Sunday School, at intervals, about 
forty years. The school was established about 1818. No 
records of its progress or doings have been kept or are 
now. It is doing a good work, and has a membership of 
about fifty. 

The church has had five settled pastors. Rev. 
George Leslie was the first. He was a native of Scot- 
land, a graduate of Harvard College, a divinity student 
of Rev. John Emerson of Topsfield, was ordained here 
when the church was oi'ganized, married Deacon Burpee's 
youngest daughter, had eight children (six sons), removed 
to Washington, N. H., where he was installed in 1780, 
Avhere he was offered and declined a professorship in 
Dartmouth College, and where his family sleep, save one 
son. He was an eminent scholar, intellectually powerful, 
and a pious and successful minister. Rev. Gilbert T. Wil- 
liams succeeded. He Avas a native of New Jersey, a grad- 
uate of Dartmouth College, lived in the house Mr. Leslie 
owned and occupied, and was dismissed after a useful min- 
istry of twenty-four years. He settled the next year in Newbury, where a shock of palsy terminated his la- 
bors. He died at Framingham in 1824. Rev. Ezekiel 
Dow was the next pastor. He was born in Warren, 
N. H. , where he now resides. He was installed Christmas, 
18G0, and be closed his pastorate in 1866. Mr. Dow's suc- 
cessor, 1866-1871, was Rev. Alvah M. Richardson, a 


native of Wobiirn, a graduate of Amherst and Andover, 
a good, worthy and pious man, l)ut an unsuccessful 
preacher. Rev. Benjamin Howe, our present pastor, 
succeeded him. Mr. Howe is a native of Linebrook ; he 
fitted for college at Meriden, N. H., Academy, graduated 
at Amherst College, and at Hartford, Conn., Seminary. 
He is a worthy citizen, is generous andcharita1>le, a good and 
diligent student, a faithful and fairly successful prejichor, 
a pious man. The inlmnities of age have unlitted liini for 
parochial duties, except on occasions, and he has retired to 
his farm in Hudson, N. H. Senis in ccehnn redeas. 

There have been stated supplies by the Eev. jNIessrs. 
David Tullar, Moses Welch, J. W. Shepard, Eliphalet 
Burchard, E. E. Abhott and eT. W. Ilealy, now Doctoi- 
of Divinity and President of Sierra ]\Iadre College, Pas- 
sadena, California, and others, whose labors have been 
blessed with fruitful harvests. 

The internal life of the church has been an average 
harmony. Her worldly goods and favors have been 
scanty, yet in moral worth and religious fervor she has 
kept abreast of her sisters. The Master of the Vineyard 
has evidently been lovingly watchful of his own, as at- 
tested by his Spirit. The membership) now is forty-nine, 
about f(U'ty of Avhom are residents. 

Through all these years the church has been a power 
for good ; and no well-minded, thoughtful parishioner, 
who loves his own, who cherishes his neighbor, who 
seeks good society, who would purify social life, who 
would help to elevate the moral standard, would throw 
wholesome influences about his children, and so make his 
own name redolent with praise, — will stand complacently 
by and see the old society need any good thing. 

60 St